B.C. paramedics could see radical job change with Bill 48

BY PAMELA FAYERMAN, VANCOUVER SUN : Tuesday, May 08, 2012 12:00 AM

The scope of paramedics’ work would be expanded to include such duties as triaging patients in emergency situations where no doctors or nurses are available, under legislation introduced in B.C. Monday.

Bill 48 would pave the way for paramedics to work in more emergency health care situations and facilities, especially when their skills are needed in extraordinary or catastrophic situations.

Nikki Sieben, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, said the Emergency and Health Services Amendment Act, if passed, would enable the province to temporarily hire paramedics from other jurisdictions in the event of a disaster.

As well, B.C. paramedics might be used in rural and remote areas of the province to both triage (assess) and transport emergency patients when there are no doctors or nurses available to do that work in small communities.

Sieben said an expanded scope of practice for paramedics still has to be discussed, not only with paramedics, but all other health professionals in the province.

While the act does contain sections that would broaden the use of paramedics, it is mostly designed to change the organizational and legal structure of the B.C. ambulance agency as it brings emergency health services into the fold of the Provincial Health Services Authority. Instead of being a separate agency, BC Ambulance would become part of the PHSA organization.

Michael MacDougall, a former senior official in the ministry, was recently appointed president of a new entity to be called BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).

MacDougall will be responsible for BC Ambulance as well as for consolidating lab medicine and pathology services throughout the Lower Mainland.

“Bill 48 allows for closer cooperation between BCEHS and health authorities in improving patient safety and quality of care,” the government said in a press release.

“This change recognizes the important role played by paramedics and first responders in overall patient care and reinforces the fact that ambulance services are often the first point of contact.”

Health Minister Mike de Jong said the legislation will result in a more efficient system.

There are 3,500 paramedics in B.C. Their union did not have a comment Monday as representatives had not yet read the draft legislation.

© Shaw Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.


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